Just because we say it, doesn't make it true
Updated: Apr 5, 2019
A couple of weeks ago, Fast Company released its prestigious, yearly list of the World’s 50 most innovative companies.
A “ranking of the businesses making the most profound impact on both industry and culture—companies that are creating the future today.”
You would surely think that the list was topped by the most creative, innovative and fearless companies in the world—advertising agencies. Yet, not a single agency made it on to the list. Zero. Not even the agency that won a dozen Grand Prix last year, or the other one that claimed to have found a simple way of ending world hunger in the last edition of Cannes Lions.
Shocking? I don’t think so.
To me, it seems that we’re much more worried about impressing our creative peers, using the latest piece of tech—whatever it takes—or meeting expectations, than we are about creating something that truly adds value to people and brands.
That’s why it was Amazon, not an advertising agency, who transformed the way people buy. Or Tesla, not BMW’s creative agency, who saw the future of electric cars. Or Twitch, not a digital agency, who transformed the way gamers connect around the world. Or students, not communication professionals, who came up with the idea to create Snapchat, Facebook and Reddit. Or 50 companies, not 50 ad agencies, who are really
‘making the most profound impact on both industry and culture’.
Yet, our entire industry still believes we’re the ones leading the world’s creative and innovation revolutions. So much so, that last year, Cannes Lions gave a whopping 1,415 lions celebrating ground-breaking, innovative projects that
‘helped disrupt industries and shaped popular culture’.
Great ideas, except that most of them died the day after the ceremony.
Now, call me optimistic but I do believe that the world’s most innovative, revolutionary ideas can indeed come from advertising agencies. That our strategic and creative brains truly have the power to transform industries and culture. That some of the best writers, thinkers, designers, strategists, business leaders, coders, innovators and digital experts in the world, can do so much more than making people click a banner—or even worse, thinking about how to get up on the stage at the next advertising festival.
If only we dared to experiment more and use our talents to chase meaningful innovation rather than shiny gold lions. Putting ideas before technology. Customers before clients.
Until then, we can delete the word ‘innovation’ from most agency websites. We’re allowed to keep ‘award-winning’ though—if that’s what truly drives us.
- Nicolas Cortes